Archives for December 2009

Surviving the holidays

If you’re like me, you may already be traveling to stay with friends and family for the holidays. The season is full of joy and excitement, especially for the kids, but it can also be chaotic since it often requires us to stray from our usual routine. Here are a few tips to get you through what’s left of the holidays.

Explain your expectations
Whether you’re visiting the usual family members or just having dinner at a friend’s house, clearly tell your child what you expect of him. Tell him what he can and cannot touch. Practice the interrupt rule. Tell your child he is to give you a “yes mommy” and eye contact when you call his name. Give him any special instructions so that he is fully prepared for the situations you will encounter.

Sleep and meals
Most of us will find ourselves operating on other people’s schedules over the holidays. Do your best to keep your child on his normal routine. Explain to family members how important it is that your child gets the sleep he needs to grow and be well behaved. The same goes for meals. Try to eat at normal times and limit sugar. If your mother-in-law is known for putting dinner on the table two hours late, bring a can of soup or something else to tide your child over or so you can feed him early and put him to bed.

Giving and receiving
With retailers starting their holiday sales before Halloween, gifts often become the focus of Christmas. Be sure to explain to your child what Christmas means and why you exchange gifts. Explain that giving and receiving gifts is a way to show our family members that we love them. When you put it in these terms, showing appreciation means more than just being polite. It impresses upon your child the importance of being thankful and receiving gifts graciously.

Also, teach your child the mechanics of opening presents. I sat down with my five-year-old today and we practiced opening gifts. I “wrapped” an old toy and gave it to him, pretending I was grandma. I told him to open it then look in my eyes and say thank you and something like “I love it” or “I’ve always wanted something like this”. I also told him he is not to toss it aside and greedily open gift after gift without stopping to show his appreciation to every giver. I also prepared him for receiving a gift that he doesn’t necessarily like. I asked him what he would say and he said “no thank you”. While this is polite, I told him that to show his love for the giver, he still has to say “thank you” and even pretend that he likes it.

A couple years ago, when my nephew was four or five years old, he opened one of our gifts and said, “I didn’t want this.” It was a purely innocent comment, possibly related to a list he had made or what he had told Santa he wanted. But it caught me a little off guard. Of course, I laughed it off, but it also made me realize the importance of teaching my kids how to receive graciously.

Discipline
There will undoubtedly be times when you will need to discipline your child when you’re away from home. This may be at grandma’s house or even in the store for last-minute shopping. Wherever it may be, scope out your location to look for a place to isolate your child when a timeout is needed. If grandparents disapprove of discipline, politely stand your ground and explain to them the importance of teaching your child (through your actions) what is and is not acceptable behavior. If you slack off on discipline, your child’s behaviors may snowball out of control and nobody will be happy.

Allow your child to take a break
We all get overwhelmed with all the people, food and chatter that happens during the holidays. Allow your child to escape it if he wants to. Find a spot in the home you’re visiting where he can sit and read books or even watch a video. If your child is acting up it could be that all he needs is a little peace and quiet.

No matter how you celebrate the holidays, be sure to prepare your child for what’s expected and do your best to stick with your usual routine and disciplinary methods. Happy holidays!

Children want to be disciplined

Among most parents, it’s understood that children need discipline. But have you ever considered that your child actually wants to be disciplined? Sure, he may protest when you send him to his room, but many experts say children actually crave discipline.

I am currently reading Make Your Children Mind without Losing Yours by Kevin Leman and in the book, he says, “They don’t test us out of orneriness; what they really want to know is whether or not we care. When we are firm and prove that we do care, they may not like it but they do respect us and appreciate us,” (p. 88).

Discipline shows you care
Our children want discipline simply to know that we care about them. When you discipline your child, you are showing that you have a vested interest in how he behaves. You show that you care about what he does and who he becomes.

Some children of permissive parents will act out simply to challenge their parents to discipline them. They will try every misdeed in the book to see if their parents care enough to discipline them. Sadly, this tactic usually backfires on them. Not only do they not receive loving discipline, but also they get shouting, frustrated parents who lash out once they have reached their breaking point. (Think Supernanny.)

Discipline allows children to learn
Our children also want discipline so they can learn to navigate the world around them. In most cases, our children come from a place of innocence and want to please their parents. However, they are still learning the ways of the world and need their parents’ discipline to redirect them towards right behavior.

No matter how young, on some level, your child recognizes that he needs this discipline to learn how to behave in the world. He knows that the world can be a big, scary place, and he depends on you to teach and guide him by disciplining those behaviors that are not acceptable in our world.

Discipline cleanses the soul
Most importantly, disciplining your child can cleanse his soul. When you discipline, the behavior is spoken about openly and is addressed with love. The child understands what he did wrong and has the opportunity to apologize for his actions. He also has the opportunity to receive forgiveness from those he offended. Once he repents and receives forgiveness, his slate is wiped clean.

When a child misbehaves and receives no discipline, he may feel secretly self-conscious about his behavior but has no opportunity to confess his sin or ask for forgiveness. Without being encouraged to apologize to his parents, his sins are left to fester in his heart.

His heart then becomes full of negativity, especially if his whole childhood is characterized by a lack of discipline. He may even carry this feeling into his adult years. Sure, he may understand that the actions he committed as a child are relatively insignificant, but when that negativity stays in his heart for so long, the actions and his feelings toward them can get blown out of proportion.

Be sure to show your child you care about his actions and his heart by disciplining him in love. One day, he will thank you for it.

Discipline litmus test

Are your discipline methods working? There are many ways to discipline children, but often, it’s hard to know whether our discipline methods are working. In the heat of the moment, you may send your child to his room for isolation and later think that maybe taking away his TV privileges would have been more effective.

So how can you know for sure whether your discipline methods are working? There’s one simple question you can ask yourself: Do my child’s behaviors change after my usual form of discipline? If so, then what you are doing is working. If not, you need to reevaluate your methods.

I once heard someone say that the definition of crazy is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. I’m not calling anybody crazy, but it’s a nice idea to remember when you’re feeling frustrated that your child’s behaviors aren’t improving. If things aren’t working, you need to change your methods.

It’s hard not to get stuck in the same routine with the same discipline methods. After all, it is far easier to send your preschooler to his room when something like cancelling a playdate would be more effective. Here are some creative discipline ideas to try:

  • Old method: Tell your child over and over to stop grabbing things off the shelf at the grocery store.
  • New method: Ask the store clerk to put your cart in the cooler and take your child home for discipline. Send your spouse back to the store later to pay for the groceries.
  • Old: Threaten your child with a timeout when he’s screaming in the car.
  • New: Don’t get in the car until he has stopped screaming. If you are already on the road, pull over and get out. Nobody wants to be in a confined space with a screamer!
  • Old: Push toy after toy at your toddler to quiet him in a restaurant.
  • New: Take him to a quiet place in the restaurant (like the restrooms) or outside and firmly explain the behavior you expect of him.
  • Old: Feel rushed and stressed getting your child to school on time because he won’t get out of bed.
  • New: Let him be late and don’t bail him out.

Also consider that perhaps the behavior doesn’t need discipline at all. I notice that when my kids are getting restless, things can easily snowball out of control. One minute, they’re a little silly. The next minute, they’re running around the house chasing each other and getting hurt. I certainly do discipline when it gets to this point, but it’s far better if I stop them at the point of silly and pull out a bin of toys for them to play with. Channeling that energy into something more productive is far more effective than disciplining after the fact.

Any parent’s ultimate goal is to instill in the child a sense of right and wrong. If your methods aren’t accomplishing this then you need to rethink your discipline and find a new way that will give you the results you are looking for.

Set realistic expectations

One of the most important elements of good parenting is setting expectations. Some parents expect far too much of their children only to exasperate themselves and their children. Other parents expect far too little. I encourage you to constantly evaluate your expectations of your child.

Setting the bar
Many Ezzo parents are proud of the fact that they can expect relatively good behavior from their children. This stems from the fact that we often set the bar quite high. Yet some parents take this too far, setting the bar so high that it’s impossible for their children to reach it. This family finds themselves in constant struggle with children being disciplined regularly for goals that are simply unattainable.

On the other hand, some parents, permissive parents in particular, set the bar too low. They expect very little of their children and achieve exactly that. These parents are often just as frustrated, however, simply because of their children’s excessive misbehavior. The children of permissive parents don’t get off without frustrations of their own. While in their daily lives they escape discipline, they encounter certain situations where the parents decide to crack down. Typically, this is at a friend’s house or some other public location that has left permissive parents feeling so embarrassed they decide to take action. Their poor children don’t see it coming and are confused by the sudden change in the rules.

Find your happy medium between these two extremes. Set your bar high enough that you can expect good behavior and a solid moral conscience, but don’t set it so high that you exasperate yourself or your child.

Childishness vs. defiance
While setting the bar high will help improve your child’s behavior, we must not forget that they sometimes misbehave in innocence. Before disciplining your child, you must stop to think about the intent behind the misbehavior. You must determine whether the behavior was caused by simple childishness or whether the child was being defiant in his actions.

“We use the term childishness to refer to innocent immaturity. This includes those nonmalicious, nonrebellious, accidental mistakes our children make…. Defiance, on the other hand, implies bad motives. The child knew the act was wrong but did it anyway. Childishness is usually a head problem—a lack of knowledge. Defiance is usually a heart problem—the child does not want to do right,” (On Becoming Childwise, p. 132).

Clearly, defiance deserves correction. Childishness, however, must be treated differently. While childish acts can be just as grating on a parent’s nerves, they cannot be treated in the same way. Simply explain to your child why his actions were wrong so you give him the knowledge for next time. If he makes the same mistake again (and if it’s not a true accident), then the act deserves correction. If your child clearly understands your instruction and commits the offense again, the act moves from childishness to defiance.

Expectations change
One final note about setting expectations is to realize that they will—and should—change as your child gets older. Some actions will be treated as childishness with a young child, but the same actions in an older child are defiance. Yes, you must still tell your child what you expect of him, but also at some point he becomes old enough to know better.

Say you struggle with table manners with your toddler. In many ways, his actions (getting food all over his face, choosing to use his hands over utensils, etc.) are childish. But if you saw these same actions in a five-year-old, you would treat them as defiance. An older child has the capacity to use his utensils and keep food in his mouth—not to mention use a napkin—so if he acts like a toddler at the table, his actions must be corrected.

Be aware of this as your child ages and make sure you are moving your expectations and setting the bar higher and higher. And take the time right now to make sure your expectations are in the right place for today. You don’t want to discipline your child excessively nor do you want to set the bar too low. Take the time to figure out where your child’s bar belongs.

Mom’s Notes on sale!

One of my readers pointed out that the Mom’s Notes are currently on sale. (Thanks Lynn!) During the Christmas season, you can get the entire set of Mom’s Notes for just $250, a savings of $50 off the online price. These audio presentations have been extremely helpful to me and other moms in putting the Ezzo principles into practice on a day-to-day basis. Visit www.momsnotes.com or learn more here.

Note: I have no affiliation with J&C Ministries. I just think they make a great product!

Discipline vs. punishment

Have you ever stopped to consider the difference between discipline and punishment? The two terms are the same only in that parents use them when their children misbehave. But they are very different in their intent.

Here are their definitions (according to dictionary.com):

Discipline: verb, to bring a state of order and obedience by training and control; to punish or penalize in order to train and control.

Punish: verb, to subject to pain, loss, confinement, etc., as a penalty for some offense, transgression or fault, to inflict a penalty.

Do you notice the difference between the two?

To teach vs. inflict harm
The intent of punishment is to inflict pain for an offense. The intent of discipline is to train and bring about order. The way I see it, by punishing our children, we inflict pain (physical or emotional) with no greater goal. By disciplining our children, our greater goal is to teach them.

Childwise principle #10: “If learning didn’t take place, correction didn’t happen,” (On Becoming Childwise, p. 133).

No matter how you correct your child’s misbehavior, make sure you are teaching him why the behavior is unacceptable.

Internal vs. external motivation
Aside from not providing a teachable lesson, punishment is less desirable than discipline because it provides an external motivation. Which would you prefer? A child who does the right thing because his parents say so or a child who does the right thing because he knows in his heart that it is right?

When we discipline our children, our goal is to help develop their conscience. In the early years, your child will do the right thing because of your influence. But once you hit the early preschool years, your child should have an internal motivation to do what’s right.

Examples
Here are some real-world examples of the difference between discipline and punishment.

Punishment: Your child throws food on the floor, so you put him in a timeout.

Discipline: Your child throws food on the floor, so you make him clean it up to teach him that it takes work to keep the house clean.

Punishment: Your child refuses to do his homework, so you lecture him about it and send him to bed without dinner.

Discipline: Your child refuses to do his homework, so you let the reality of a failing grade teach the lesson of why homework is important.

Punishment: Your child hits you in a fit of rage, so you yell and hit back.

Discipline: Your child hits you in a fit of rage, so you send him to his room. If he can’t be nice to anyone, he should be alone and rejoin the family when his anger is under control.

Punishment: Your child abuses his computer time, so you ground him for three months.

Discipline: Your child abuses his computer time, so you take away his computer privileges until he shows you that he’s responsible enough to use the computer wisely. The onus is on the child to prove that he’s responsible.

Punishment: Your child leaves his bike on the lawn for the third time in a week, so you send him to his room.

Discipline: Your child leaves his bike on the lawn for the third time in a week, so you take away his bike privileges until he shows you he can take care of his things.

As you can see in these examples, there is a lesson involved in every form of discipline. Be sure that every time you correct your child’s behavior, you are teaching through discipline.